February used to be just a short month in the middle of winter. It was pretty uneventful, cold and usually over in a flash. When I converted to Judaism I remember thinking how nice it was that February held one of the most fun holidays Judaism has to offer. Purim has all of the best elements–candy, noisemakers, carnivals, spiels, and costumes. The first time I attended Purim services I was nailed in the head with a Sunkist Fruit Gem and spent the remainder of the time searching the floor for more. That year, February became a little sweeter and a little more redeeming.
And then I laid pregnant and fearful on a recliner for eight long weeks and all I could think about was February. Because come February I would have successfully carried my first baby to 35 weeks and the chances of him being born healthy were excellent. With every passing day that February fear melted and joy increased.
Three years ago, February delivered its promise. February changed me forever.
I’ve read a lot of beautifully written pieces about losing yourself to motherhood. Lamenting on the person you once were or mourning the death of your former self, body, and social life. And while I find truth in these sentiments, the story is not about loss but about living. Life is linear in one direction and disputing that fact is wasted mind-space. There were a lot of wonderful moments in my childhood. For me, high school was two parts manic and one part amazing but never once have I looked back and missed that girl. College was downright awesome but the nostalgic brevity of that carefree experience is what motivates us to reach into our pockets and give to alumni relations. Dating, heartbreak, courtship, all of it was crazy bliss and all of it is in the past. They are experiences I’ve celebrated, reflected upon, grieved, and grown from. I do them justice by remembering them in the past not by wishing to relive them.
To have that innocence and freedom back just the way they were would mean that I would never have experienced life’s great joy of becoming a mother. The visceral pang of becoming a mother not once, but twice, lives and thrives inside of me. I liked and disliked many things about the person I was before having children, but that girl is a different woman now.
The first word that comes to mind when describing my former self was “intense” and I can’t think of a single person who knows me today who would describe me as such. My passion for my career, my beliefs, and my community hasn’t gone away; it’s just not the first thing you see anymore. Instead you see me, the matriarch, whose fierceness has been quelled by two beautiful boys, a loving husband, and the realization that this is what makes words worth writing, money worth spending, and time worth having. Motherhood defines exhaustion, love, fear, insecurity, and success with a new rubric–one that won’t be truly realized until my lifetime is complete.
Sure, I’m tired but tomorrow holds more self-sufficient children than today did. Sure, I dream about sitting in the back of a dark, quiet restaurant soaking in my husband. But those are dreams for my future, not of my past. The joy of now is about the moments I look at my family and fall to my knees in thanksgiving. Fun and happiness include less alcohol and more selflessness and I’m okay with it. Motherhood has made me a better listener, learner, follower, and friend. It has made me a better wife and a better Jew.
For me, it wasn’t about losing myself to motherhood. It was about taking a spirited and snarky young woman and giving her a higher standard. I mentally dig through the best parts of my childhood, past, and upbringing and live them as a shining example of what I want my children to be one day. When I became a mother I felt whole for the first time in my life. It is the one thing that I’ve never felt more ill prepared for or spent more time doing but even on my worst days shows me that I know exactly who I am. Who I will always be to them.
Three Februarys ago, in the most joyous month of the Hebrew calendar, I found myself. Motherhood hit me in the head like a Sunkist Fruit Gem and I’ve never looked back.
My son’s birthday falls on Purim this year and the joy I feel after three years of raising him while becoming me is immeasurable.
Happy Purim birthday, to him. And to me.